Georgia coach Kirby Smart met with the media Monday afternoon to discuss the upcoming matchup with rival Auburn.
Georgia, No. 1 in the initial College Football Playoff Rankings and No. 2 in the latest Associated Press poll, is seeking its fourth consecutive win over No. 10 Auburn. Here’s what Smart said about the Tigers.
“Today we begin our preparation for what I believe is a fantastic Auburn team. Very physical upfront; offensive line, defensive line. They have backs playing at a really high level. They have a quarterback that has an extremely strong arm and does a tremendous job throwing the ball vertical down field. ... They’ve always been good at special teams under (coach) Gus (Malzahn). And they’ve got a good all-around football. Obviously the environment, I’ve played over there a lot throughout my coaching career, they do a really good job creating the environment. So the challenges are in front of us. We’ll find out a lot about this team, playing on the road in a tough place to play against a really good football team.”
The environment at Jordan-Hare Stadium:
“Same challenges it is to play at most SEC places, difference is it’s a little louder. And they’ve got a good team. The better the team is, the tougher the place to play is. Their fans get loud, get rowdy. They’re there pregame until the end. There have been some really loud moments playing in that stadium and I don’t expect it to be any different Saturday.”
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On Auburn’s offensive line – the toughest since Notre Dame?
“By far. It’s the combination: Not just the O-line, it’s the quarterback (Jarrett Stidham), who can put them in the right play, makes good decisions, great arm talent. The back (Kerryon Johnson), which you have to tackle, he’s running wild on people. He’ll bounce out, he’ll hit it up inside. Runs with great toughness, physical. I’ve seen this kid grow for a long time. Watched him play when he was in high school. He’s become a really, really good back and they do a good job using his strengths. And the fullback doesn’t get much credit. Chandler Cox, he does a great job blocking for them. And they’ve got more speed at wideout this year than they’ve had in the past. And I actually think they’ve needed to use it because of the quarterback and his strengths. So the combination of that plus the offensive line, it’s really the recipe for what they want, which I think indicates their offensive numbers.”
How did Auburn adjust their pass protections after allowing 11 sacks to Clemson?
“When you watch that game, they’re not the same team now they were then. They’re not the same offensive line now that they were then. Clemson certainly has some really elite rushers. They got after them. It was also their quarterback’s first time playing at Auburn in a big game in a situation like that. So I don’t really go off that.
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And Clemson has their personnel and they play the way they play and we have our personnel and play the way we play. They’re not always the same. Clemson did a tremendous job getting pressure. We need to get pressure. We need to affect the quarterback. But you also have to cover the guys they have out there running the routes. And they’ve got some really fast guys out there running those routes. So big thing is stopping the run and not giving up big plays.”
What points have you stressed to the team before taking on such a balanced offense?
“Keeping the edges. Making sure they run between the tackles and you tackle well. At the end of the day, (Kerryon Johnson) can go where he wants to go with the ball because he’s got great speed. A lot of his runs last year on us were outside. He broke out and does a good job doing that. ... They know the defenses we’re going to play. Gus has seen the defenses we play for seven, eight years it seems like. And we know the plays they’re going to run. They’re not going to reinvent the wheel. We’ve got to go out there and play blocks, tackle, man the ball and not give up big plays.”
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